Thursday, October 21, 2010

Style is Back in Style: High Fashion on a Low Budget

"I believe in shopping on a budget. I know firsthand from working with people that more fashion mistakes happen when people have an unlimited amount of money. They just pick things up willy-nilly, versus someone who's on a budget and thinking, 'Will this work in my wardrobe?'"-Tim Gunn 

Sure that Coach or Prada purse is appealing.  It may not look any better than the one you got at the Salvation Army, but it does scream out “Look, I’m Rich.”

Would it help you to know that a lot of those luxury clothing brands are made in the same Chinese and Cambodian factories as your Wal-Mart duds?  It used to be that those high ticket items were lovingly crafted by hand, but that is simply not so any more.  You can get the same luxury results by buying the stuff at discount prices and shouting “Look, I’m Rich” verbally.

Marc Jacobs, creative director of Louis Vuitton, the world’s largest luxury goods company, defines luxury this way: “For me, luxury is about pleasing yourself, not dressing for other people.” 

Who is more likely to dress with little regard for trends than a broke person?    Now is the time to develop a quirky fashion sense.  Unique is chic.  Aren’t  you just a little too cool to dress up in cookie-cutter mass produced fashions anyway?  The Goodwill Store has its half-price sale on Wednesday.  Go for it.

Psychology Today agrees with me.  In the article "The Style Imperative" published in September, they wrote:

There is a vast gap between fashion and style. Fashion is about clothes and their relationship to the moment. Style is about you and your relationship to yourself. Fashion is in the clothes. Style is in the wearer. The distinction could not be more revealing.  Despite the proliferation of fashion, style has been out of style for decades. As the economy expanded, America embarked on a collective shopping spree. In place of style we have honored Merchandise. Clothes. Style, on the other hand, doesn't demand a credit card. It prospers on courage and creativity...Lastly, style is one part fashion. It's possible to have lots of clothes and not an ounce of style. But it's also possible to have very few clothes and lots of style.
 There are some brilliantly creative folks out there demonstrating style without flashing their Platinum Master Cards around.  I previously featured Marissa, the blogger behind New Dress A Day.  She shows her clever conversions of cheap thrift store cast-offs into wearable new designs, a review of the book Junky Styling: A Manual for Thrift Shop Clothes Remixers, and The Uniform Project, in which a woman wore the same black dress for a year but changed its appearance with accessories.

Turns out that using your creativity rather than your pocketbook makes you happier.  Another Psychology Today article interviewed Tim Kasser, associate professor of psychology at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, and author of The High Price of Materialism.

"Buying stuff doesn't seem to make even materialistic people happy," Kasser says. A materialistic lifestyle is associated with an inadequate sense of security, competence, relatedness, and autonomy, he's found. In addition to perpetual feelings of ennui, the materialist runs the risk of burgeoning into a full-blown shopaholic, a person so obsessed with buying that they fall into debt and suffer dire personal consequences. A recent Stanford University study found that about 5.5 percent of men and 6 percent of women fit the criteria.

Here are three sites aimed at the frugal fashionista that have "broke" right in their names.  Broke and Beautiful, Flat Broke and Fabulous and Broke Livin.

And for more inspiration check out Lookbook, a collaborative showcase of the best in global street fashion.  People upload their own pictures of their style choices.  Many of the looks are made up of homemade and vintage pieces, like this ensemble by Lady B, made entirely of thrift store finds.

I'd like to hear about more resources for budget style that relies more on brain power than shopping.  Post suggestions in the comments.

*Image of Ariel Grimm issued under a Creative Commons Share Alike license